Neo-liberals and Neo-Conservatives: Whats the Difference and why should I care?

“… Neoliberalism has nothing to do with liberal ideas. It gets presented as a kind of “new” liberalism, but is in fact part of right wing ideology. Neoliberalism was in fact a class backlash against liberal policies like welfare and public works programs that were created in response to the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted “New Deal” programs in the 1930s to provide relief for the poor, to stimulate the economy, and to reform the financial sector to avoid another depression. The New Deal was a kind of class compromise – economic growth through free trade, but constrained by government programs and regulations. By the end of WWII, the share of national income by the top 1% had fallen, and it remained stagnant for a while. With strong growth, it didn’t matter much. But once growth collapsed and inflation soared in the 1970s, the share of wealth by the top 1% plunged from about 35% in 1965 to 20% in 1975. And then the 1% rallied. This is where neoliberalism comes from. Neoliberals argue that the surest path to widespread prosperity is to free capital from government constraints. In other words, privatize everything, absolutely – healthcare, land, water, prisons, communications, food production… you name it. For the 1%, it has worked smashingly. The ratio of median compensation for workers to CEO salaries went from 30:1 in 1970 to more than 500:1 in 2000.

Neoliberalism manipulates ideas like human dignity and individual freedom. Don’t be fooled. Neoliberals tout these as “the central values of civilization” – in opposition to fascism, dictatorships, communism, and all things bad, including all forms of state intervention. Their logic claims that state intervention threatens freedom by substituting collective decisions for individual choice. But what do they mean by freedom? In reality, neoliberals have undermined structures for democratic decision-making, even challenging state sovereignty. Corporations, for example, can now challenge health and environmental regulations as trade barriers. Neoliberalism has also done profound damage to families, social safety nets, indigenous attachments to the land, and as economist David Harvey puts it, “habits of the heart” world over. It seeks to bring all human action and interaction into the domain of the market, all in the name of freedom.

Neoconservatives descend from liberals. Again, their ideas get presented as a “new” form of conservativism. While it’s true that they are also part of the political right, it’s important to realize that there are sectors much further to the right of them that claim that they are the true conservatives. “Neocons” as they’re affectionately called, were once liberals who in the 1950s and ‘60s supported the Civil Rights Movement and racial integration, but who opposed the Soviet Union. Unlike neoliberals, they generally supported New Deal policies but felt that the expansion of those programs under President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as the more radical politics that emerged as part of the New Left in the 1960s, went too far. The antiwar, Black Power and Third World liberation movements all needed to be contained, for fear of “mob rule”. In the ‘70s, in the Democratic Party, some of today’s neocons backed Henry “Scoop” Jackson instead of anti-war candidate George McGovern. Jackson supported liberal social policies, but favored increased military spending and a hard line against the USSR. Among those who worked for Jackson was future neocon and Undersecretary of Defense under the Bush-Cheney administration, Paul Wolfowitz. His legacy is largely responsible for today’s post-9/11 War on Terror and U.S. foreign policy line. This includes the idea of preemptive attack, that the United States has the right to attack governments that pose potential threats to U.S. security, even if those threats aren’t immediate. Neocons are responsible for today’s state of permanent war. They are interventionists, particularly when it comes to Middle East policy, and are often Islamophobic. Like neoliberals, they use the language of freedom and democracy to rationalize their actions.

Neoliberal and neoconservative agendas sometimes overlap. In 2003…”;- Read more

 Re-blogged fromChangeLab


2 responses to “Neo-liberals and Neo-Conservatives: Whats the Difference and why should I care?

  1. Excellent article and such a powerful introduction: “neoliberalism has nothing to do with liberal ideas.”


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